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Tuesday 27 June 2023

Reviews: Tsjuder, High Priest, Midnite City, Nocturnal Breed (Reviews By Erick WIlland, Rich Piva, GC & Matt Bladen)

Tsjuder - Helvegr (Season Of Mist) [Erick Willand]

At this point Desert Northern Hell, Tsjuder’s 2004 album has entered into the vaulted halls of Black Metal classics, one of those albums old timers deem a “must listen”. There is truth in that I can swear to, I am one of those old timers that will insist new comers cram their ears with it on the asap. Now in 2023 we have marched through 1 opening EP, 5 full albums, a live album 2 deluxe reissues, a live DVD and one Bathory covers EP to land here at the newest attack, Helvegr.

Opening salvo Iron Beast sets the pace and gives you fair warning that there will be no mercy here. Blasts accompanied by an unholy roar herald the beginning of this ruthless assault, “Black Metal razor blades!” is the very first lyric line. It’s an instant classic of the genre. Prestehammeren just keeps the vibe going, opening with vile gurgling and an actual dive bomb run and then this riff is dropped right on your trench and there is no escape. Surtr opening like soldiers slowly taking up positions before an attack is masterful song construction. The drum work by well known session dude Jon Rice is at epic, beastly levels. This all out drum and riff siege continues, Gamle-Erik making you feel like you’ve been suddenly dropped into a chaotic battlefield.

Chaos Fiend is the absolute ripper of this album with its shotgun blast opening and full speed, all guns blazing forward attack on the core of your senses. Rolling over your mind with spiked treads and screams of “Total Fucking Darkness!”. Easily my favorite track and was added to my personal playlist immediately. This album doesn’t let up though and Gods Of Black Blood and title track Helvegr keep the advance going in good order. Thundering and menacing ‘Black Blood is a declaration, “We stride triumphant, Hellspawned demon lords” is a great line. 

If ‘Black Blood is a menacing anthem song then title track Helvegr is the stadium song with equal parts grandiose musical elements and evil crowd chants. Helvegr suffers a bit here though as it clocks in at over 7 minutes and although I like it, my mind did start to wonder a bit. As if in answer to this the last two tracks, Faenskap og Dod and Hivt Dod are both under the 4 minutes mark. Faenskap og Dod is a vicious song with pieces of the meaner side of punk mixed in and the angriest vocals of the album. Hivt Dod is the short instrumental album closer and it fits, like being acoustically accompanied off of a battlefield you just helped conquer.

This album is aggressive, relentless and packed with riffs and evil and topped with great cover art that is clearly hand drawn. Tracks 3, 6 and 7 could have used a bit of a time trimming but that is really the only complaint I have here. 9/10

High Priest - Invocation (Magnetic Eye Records) [Rich Piva]

When I saw the notification that there was a new High Priest album I rejoiced and hit the pre-order button as fast as I could. It was then pointed out to me that this was actually the debut full length from High Priest who up until now only had two EPs, both excellent, that came out in 2016 and 2019. So, the Chicago band takes their time and are meticulous with what they put out, which really shows with how freaking awesome Invocation is. This is fuzzy, grungy, doomy, spacey awesomeness that will hang with anything that has been put out this year so far.

Take the opening title track, which starts you off with some doom in space vibes until it kicks in and kicks you in the head with some heavy, fuzzy stoner grunge. Yup, all of that. Seamlessly we go to the next track, Divinity, which is some Sabbath meets Seattle goodness. The record sounds amazing, and while I have heard debates on the vocals, I think they are killer. Oh, yeah, this shit is catchy as hell to boot, so you get it all here on this track and throughout Invocation. So, while this album is filled with amazing songs, it flows like one stream of consciousness with no real pauses between tracks, and it works perfectly as the riff from Ceremony demolishes you. AIC vibes alert!!! The AIC that crushes your soul version. 

Cosmic Key brings the soul crushing doom riffs up next, with an urgency to the layered vocals that you can feel in your bones. Haunting heaviness perfection. This song picks up nicely towards the back end to show that the 70s live in High Priest with their Thin Lizzy, NWOBHM call out, until that crushing riff returns to end you. Soundgarden riffage drives Down In The Dark, and I can even hear a bit of Hum on this track, with the vocals really shining on this one. Universe brings more of that heavy grunge vibe with a riff that would make Buzz proud. 

The more I listen the more I feel like these guys really dug Hum’s Inlet from a couple of years ago, but a heavier version but with that same kind of atmosphere. Oh, and with an Iommi style breakdown that leads to a Maiden style solo. All of that. Conjure has an opening riff borrowed from early Trouble (Chicago connection!!!) and includes the great line “It turns out demons are angels dressed in drag…” with more of the urgent vocals that lead this one, almost like we are at the doom mass at metal church., until once again the pace picks up and shows that High Priest could also be an excellent, fuzzy stoner band if they wanted to be. But the pièce de resistance is the closer, Heaven, which I am not going to try to describe, just know it is perfect.

My album of the year list is very top heavy, with about ten records that stand out amongst the thousand plus I have heard so far this year, and Invocation is one of those right up there. While it took a long time to produce, High Priest, in taking their time created their masterpiece. This is mandatory listening for anyone who wants to hear heavy music at its absolute best. 10/10

Midnite City - In At The Deep End (Pride & Joy Music) [GC]

Sometimes reviewing all the latest extreme metal albums gets a bit much and I need a break from time to time so decide to pick something so far out of my comfort zone as a bit of a challenge, it usually ends in absolutely scathing reviews and very low scores, so naturally today I have decided to cleanse the musical palette with the new Midnite City release In At The Deep End, I am as usual slightly weary of what I am about to hear, but he who dares and all that!

Outbreak is an intro, so I don’t waste my time with that and dive headfirst into Ready To Go which in all fairness isn’t that bad! It has a decent upbeat guitar tone and a decent pace to the main body of the song and the vocals are also a decent mix of Jon Bon Jovi and Sebastian Bach at times, the main thing I’m not really sold on is the actual lyrics because they are a complete cheesefest but you can’t have everything I suppose? Someday is another upbeat and summery tune full of delightful guitar work and the electronics really shine through here as well and it doesn’t make me feel sick when the big floaty chorus kicks in, which is a bonus! Also, a note must be made about the guitars, there is a crunch mixed into sugary 80’s melodies and that makes for a refreshing experience! So far so good! 

And here is the ballad! Hardest Heart To Break does make me feel a little sick but I think that’s what ballads are meant to do right? I mean, it’s not completely horrible and has some great vocal work, the bass really stands out in the mix well and it uses the electronic elements well but it’s all just a bit too much for me this early into the album in all honesty!? Anyway, I’m back from the toilet and Good Time Music is up next, with its heavily electronic feel it successfully carries on the upbeat tempo and makes for another good listen, but I am struggling with the lyrics again, best just to focus on the music, I think! All Fall Down sounds like it could have been lifted directly from Bon Jovi’s New Jersey album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I guess if you’re playing 80’s throwback stuff its going to be difficult to sound original but, this is just too similar! Decent song though! 

Now for probably my least favorite song of all Girls Gone Wild its just plain awful, I’m sure Motley Crue would be pleased with a song this awful but, its really not for me and probably has the worst lyrics so far, anyway I would advise you skip this track! Beginning Of The End is the standard 2nd ballad and its not as good as the first one, its really stripped back and does have some nice vocal melodies but the whole song just feels a little too empty and plods along rather than lifting you up, I now feel that it’s all starting to go a bit wrong! 

Until Raise The Dead kicks in and is probably the heaviest, most full-on track on the whole album, it has a dark feel to it and the keyboards seep thorugh and mix perfectly with the darker guitar tone, and it has a killer solo in it too! a well-placed track to really shake things back into life when all seemed lost! And then just like that we get a third ballad!!?? In the shape of It’s Not Me It’s You which is probably the second best out of the 3 on offer so should have just been the second ballad because here it drops the pace again and seems like an out of place choice!? Like There’s No Tomorrow is the last track and is also on par with Girls Gone Wild as the poorest songs on offer, and really just ends the album on a bit of a disappointing note!

Shock horror, I didn’t hate this album! I didn’t love it and it certainly won’t make its way into my usual rotation but that is not the point! It’s an upbeat and fun listen with a couple of throwaway tracks here and there but overall, it didn’t make me want to give up and just slag it off like I normally would with this type of album, which must count as a win for Midnite City! 6/10 (Well bllody hell! - Editor)

Nocturnal Breed - Carry The Beast (Dark Essence Records) [Matt Bladen]

I'll admit I didn't know what to expect with this album. The Norwegian band are called the kings of denim and since the mid 90's they have been playing what they called blackened thrash, but a particularly aggressive version of blackened thrash metal.

Now a trio they are akin to Venom, Deströyer 666, Aura Noir and even Celtic Frost, razor blade riffs, screeched vocals and speed metal drumming are all present on Carry The Beast. Recorded without modern equipment this is the sort of music that came on cassette and was traded between dudes wearing corpse paint and upside down crucifixes.

Unfortunately Nocturnal Breed fall at one crucial hurdle with this album, it's too long, this raw, extreme speed metal should be around 40 minutes with songs that are 5 minutes maximum. Carry The Beast is over an hour with the bonus tracks. The third song is 8 minutes, the fourth 7 minutes and two of the bonus songs are over 7 minutes, that's too long, way too long and it means that I became weary of it quite quickly, only the Motörhead stomp of I Ain't Marching No More gaining my attention again.

There will be many that will love the mix of raw production with more expansive songs but this seventh album hasn't made me want to check out any other albums from these Norwegian veterans. 5/10

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